The United States recognized Venezuela’s National Assembly president Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president amid marches against embattled president Nicolas Maduro.
Trump made the announcement two weeks after Maduro was inaugurated for his second term. Dozens of nations decried his win as illegitimate, CNN reported, and thousands of people have taken to the street to protest his rule.
"In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country's constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” Trump said in a statement recognizing Guaido, who heads the National Assembly, as the country’s leader. “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”
Trump vowed to "continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people."
The move came after Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement backing the protests against Maduro, vowing “unwavering support of the United States."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed the United States’ support for Guaido Wednesday.
Other nations join US:
The United States was joined by Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and other South American nations in recognizing Guaido as the legitimate president of the country. Cuba issued a statement in support of Maduro while Mexico said it will continue to recognize Maduro as president.
The European Union has not backed Guaido but EU Council President Donald Tusk said, "I hope that all of Europe will unite in support of democratic forces in Venezuela. Unlike Maduro, the parliamentary assembly, including Juan Guaido have a democratic mandate from Venezuelan citizens."
Maduro orders US diplomats out:
Maduro responded to the move by severing diplomatic ties with the US and ordering American diplomats out of the country within 72 hours, The Washington Post reported.
"Get Out! Leave Venezuela. Here we have dignity, damn it," he said.
The White House said it does not recognize his authority.
“The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela,” the statement said. “Accordingly the United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata.”
Trump has not ruled out using military force if Maduro does not step down.
“We’re not considering anything, but all options on the table,” he said. “All options, always, all options are on the table.”